Can a small menu save your failing restaurant?

In 2017, restaurant chain Chili’s pared-down 40% of its menu by shaving off 50 items, even popular ones like the Mango Chili Tilapia. The reason for this “dramatic change”, Chili’s said, was because they were compromising on quality and execution due to their “expanded menu” and that “today no restaurant can be everything to everyone”.

Chili’s is not the only big name in the industry that has trimmed its menu in recent years. McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, IHOP, Burger King, and Olive Garden, to name a few, have all followed suit.

For small and newly-opened restaurants, especially, industry experts are increasingly recommending keeping their menu size concise and compact. According to a Washington Post report, small menus have lasting power and this movement is not about to change anytime in the near future.

The Magic Number is 40!

One of the biggest reasons why restaurants are now serving sparse menus is a marked change in eating habits and food culture among Americans, particularly the millennials who are also the largest living generation. And as a restaurant, it goes without saying that you should always create a menu with the customer in mind.

So what are the benefits of having a small menu?

Let’s find out below

Time-saving, and convenient

A pizzeria selling only five options for vegetarians and five for non-vegetarians will always be preferred over someone selling a hundred variety of pizzas. Why? For a simple reason, that small menu helps customers place their orders faster that saves them a lot of time and energy. They don’t appreciate large confusing offerings.

Browsing a really vast menu can overwhelm your customers to an extent that it can lead to abandoned carts or dropped sales.

Easy customization

The rising popularity of particular diets and awareness of food sensitivities has enforced restaurants to provide customization for all the dishes. The fact of the matter is that customers are getting addicted to this trend. A small menu with fewer but customizable dishes is a sure way to keep the customers happy, increase brand loyalty and improve profitability.

Let’s study Chitpotle’s approach. They have listed four main items on their menu, and the option to choose from 20 ingredients listed under the customization tag. This approach has made them quite popular amongst millennials who like to have their food their way!

Reduce food waste

Bigger is not always better! 88% of customers say that they are more loyal to a brand that supports social or environmental issues. A big menu automatically means bigger food waste and when customers today are insisting on zero-waste, this strategy simply does not work in a restaurant’s favor. A culled menu will not only make your restaurant more sustainable but also have a great effect on your bottom line.

Cost-effective kitchen

With a minimal menu, you immediately have a smaller inventory to manage. A limited number of items means less raw materials to procure and store. This also reduces internal theft to a great extent as you’re able to keep a track of all incomings and outgoings without having to rely on spreadsheets.

Defined brand identity

A compact menu creates a feeling of trust among customers, as they believe that the limited number of dishes means the restaurant specializes in them and can assure consistency. By having a well-defined restaurant concept you can target your core audience more effectively. So if your head chef specializes in Mexican, stick to it! Before you even realise, your restaurant will become one of the top Mexican places in the city!

Ensure quality and consistency

With fewer items to work on and prep instructions to follow, the kitchen staff can deliver easy-to-order, well-executed dishes in less time. It also gets easy for customers to remember the restaurant for it’s specialized/signature dishes; something that distinguishes them from the rest.

Today, less is more!

The benefits of culling the menu are plenty, but more importantly, they all help you increase the bottom line, which can definitely save your falling restaurant!

Some of the best restaurants in the world follow the philosophy of offering a simple, but excellent menu and they’re doing pretty well - think Five Guys!

The growing trend towards specific offerings may be a path to future success for many restaurants. Give your customers a consistently great experience and they’ll keep coming! And that’s exactly what you need to save your business from failing!

How large is your menu? Think about where you could “slim down” your restaurant menu to make your business more efficient and profitable?